The Corner

Law & the Courts

Why Wasn’t the Texas Shooter in Prison?

In response to The ‘Reformer’ Tyrant

Robert VerBruggen notes that the Texas shooter was legally barred from owning a firearm, but was able to obtain a number of guns anyway because the Air Force failed to enter his conviction into the database:

In 2012, the Texas shooter fractured his infant stepson’s skull and assaulted his wife as well. Then in the Air Force, he was court-martialed and sentenced to a year’s confinement.

This domestic-violence conviction disqualified him from legal gun ownership. But the military failed to submit the records for inclusion in the federal database used to run background checks, so he was able to acquire guns by simply walking into gun stores and buying them. He didn’t have to steal a gun, or have a “straw purchaser” buy one for him, or buy from a private seller who’s not required to conduct a background check.

This, of course, represents a serious screw-up on the part of the Air Force, and, in turn, underscores how little point there is to our laws if they are not properly enforced. But it also raises another question, unrelated to the matter of gun control: Why wasn’t this guy in prison?

I am not a lock-’em-up-and-throw-away the key sort of guy. Indeed, when it comes to a number of “crimes” in which there is no obvious victim, I’m as lenient as they come. This, though, was not one of those crimes. This was a crime that had two victims. This was a crime that told us a lot about its perpetrator. This was the sort of crime that illustrates why we have prisons in the first instance. This man fractured an infant’s skull. He assaulted his wife. And he got just a year in prison. Why?


After an abomination such as this, good people tend to be astonished at the enormity of the evil on display. “How,” I have found myself wondering, “could anyone shoot an eighteen-month-old?” “How could anyone shoot a pregnant woman?” “How could anyone shoot anyone, other than in self-defense?” I don’t know the answers to these questions. But I do know that when a person proves himself capable of attacking his wife and fracturing a baby’s skull, he is warning us that he might be capable of worse. “How could you point a rifle at a child and pull the trigger?” is not too different a question from “How could you smash an infant’s head in?”

So I’ll ask again: Why was he walking the streets? A year? For that?


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